So Have You Heard The Rumour About…?

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News travels fast.

It only takes days, if not minutes, for the latest downfall or scandal or resignation of that well-known person in Christian ministry to hit our ears.

We’ve all been there.

And while our world and our Facebook and Twitter feeds delight in juicy gossip and rumours, we know from Scripture that gossip and slander are serious and damaging sins (Proverbs 16:28; Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20).

I think there are four possible responses when we hear rumours about our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not all of them apply to every person. Not all of them are godly responses:

1. The rumour stops with me

Psalm 101:5  Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate.

Whether this rumour is true or not, you see that it’s really none of your business. The fact is, you’re not really close to this person. Your ministries don’t intersect in any way. There’s simply no reason for you to get involved in any deeper way. If there are people and organisations you trust who are willing to continue to vouch for this person, then you’re content with that and give them the benefit of the doubt.

So you step back. You stop talking. You’re wise enough to know there are always two sides to the story. But you’re simply not close enough to need to do anything yourself. So you let God be judge and trust his people to do the right thing.

2. I’m close enough to talk to the person directly

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 

This person’s well-being and spheres of ministry intersect with you and your ministries closely. Or they might actually be a personal friend – either now or in the past. So you do them the courtesy of making time to talk to them directly. Whatever else you’ve heard from others, you view with a healthy degree of scepticism until you speak to this person directly.

And once you do, you then make measured and wise judgements about who else you’re going to talk to. You might be content at this point to leave it. On the other hand, it may involve an unresolved conflict with other people or organisations, so you might decide to talk to them about it, to get the other side of the story.

When you’ve heard ‘the other side’, you’ve got a decision to make. To what extent do I need to make decisions about this person and justify it to others? To what extent do I need to speak further about this to others who may fall into the other three categories above and below?

The wise person would speak as minimally as possible and encourage others who have questions about this person to do what you’ve done – i.e. to talk to the person directly, or simply to stop talking and asking.

Proverbs 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.

3. I’m going to talk to others based on limited information

Proverbs 18:8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.

The rumours don’t stop with you, you become a link in the Chinese whispers chain. Whatever information you have is second-hand. The rumours are simply too salacious or scandalous to be kept to yourself. You might even talk about it with a veneer of godliness and concern, but if you’re honest with yourself, you just like gossiping.

You need to repent. You need to stop. You will need to confess and apologise to the people you’ve talked to, and perhaps (one day) to the person you’ve gossiped about.

4. I’m going to launch my own investigation so I can be the expert on these matters

Proverbs 16:28 A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

You’re discontent with the limited information you might have heard in the rumour mill, so you decide you need to know more. But unlike person (2) above, you’re not motivated by genuine concern for the person; neither does your sphere of ministry really require you to get involved. However you decide to launch your own investigation by talking to the people or organisations you are closer to. But you’re not consistent or courageous enough to approach the person yourself.

During the course of your ‘investigations’, people turn to you for information and for your opinion on the matter. You tell yourself and others that since you’ve launched your own inquiry, you’re in a strong enough position to make a godly assessment of the situation. The truth is, of course, you’re not. But people pay attention to what you say because of that veneer of care and authority you carry.

You tell yourself that you’re doing the godly thing, but the reality is, you’re the most damaging of the lot. You should have had the wisdom of person (1) and just stopped the rumours when they hit you. You may need to repent of your idolatrous desire for power, influence, and approval. The fact of the matter is, you like being the expert; you like being ‘in the know’; you like to have people think well of you that you’ve done a great deal of ‘objective’ investigation. In reality you haven’t and all you’ve done and all you’ve become is another damaging link in the chain of rumours.

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About Pete

I am a child of God, a husband, a father of four children, a pastor, and a church planter. I live in Sydney Australia and live to see Jesus made famous in this city and be the only God people worship.

Posted on November 4, 2015, in Christian Living and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Pete there are so many ‘buts’ that you didn’t engage with in this post. What if the person involved has actually been under church discipline? The bible has a lot to say about the integrity of that process, as flawed as human institutions are. The bible doesn’t have much to say about trusting ‘people and organisations’ (presumably you are speaking of a para-church organisation?) to vouch for others when there may be a whole lot of other evidence to the contrary.
    And what if there are many people who are happy to share their experiences which give validity to the rumours? Say in a case of spiritual abuse by a pastor within his church.

    And what if the ‘people and organisations you trust who are willing to continue to vouch for this person’ haven’t investigated both sides of the rumours to find out whether they are true or false? Or these individuals are spiritually blind themselves and can’t see the truth?

    Very comforting that God will bring all evil to light and that he is the Just Judge. He will bring an end to rumours and make his truth known.

    • HI Bill, thanks for commenting.

      I think that regardless of the truth of the rumours, a person can still apply points (1) or (2) in what I have written.

      Person (1) might decide that the ‘organisations’ they trust are the ones that have enacted church discipline. In which case, sure, you can take the process from face value and assume the guilt of the accused. However, being in the category of person (1), you can still do the godly thing and decide not to talk about it to others. Why get involved since, as person (1), there are really no points of intersection between your circles of ministry and theirs?

      Person (2) might have spoken to the person and have decided that the person is rightly under church discipline, or whatever measure has been imposed on them. Then what I wrote here still applies:

      “To what extent do I need to make decisions about this person and justify it to others? To what extent do I need to speak further about this to others who may fall into the other three categories above and below?

      The wise person would speak as minimally as possible and encourage others who have questions about this person to do what you’ve done – i.e. to talk to the person directly, or simply to stop talking and asking.”

      Cheers,

      Pete

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